It's just like the hamburger commercial; Have it your own way! Your annual golf outing serves to be the best possible vacation. Make it your own way. Forget “the package” and design your own special, personalized group get away.
In my last article, I have an overview of how you can put together a terrific group golf vacation. In this article, I will go into much more detail concerning the organization and preparation. I have been setting up the ideal gathering for our group for 18 years. There are refinements every year and we think we have arrived at the optimum outing.
You will be driving this bus, so get the ball rolling. Do a little research and pick a location. This location should have plenty of vacation rental homes and a good selection of golf courses. You do not want to play the same course every day. You should be able to do most or all of your research online to find out about rental house and golf course specifics, including costs.
Get the word out to the troops. I like to send out a humorous email to introduce the event and then follow up with more emails and phone calls. I recommend you send out an email to everyone you think might be remotely interested about five months in advance. Some will not be able to make it due to family, work, interest, etc. You should hope to wind up with a group size around eight. Anywhere from six to twelve is great. Five people is the worst group size due to tee times. More than twelve is too hard to organize or find lodging in the same house.
Pick out a window of time. We usually grab the last week in February to get the northern gents out of the snow and still stay in the low rate season for the southern golf courses. As an example of an introductory email, you could send something like this:
“It has come to my attention through the minions who surround me and perform my every whim that there may be those among you desiring driving sleet, incomprehensible wind chill, unplayable lies, unreachable par 3's, impossible odds, foot-wedging opponents, gross bending of the USGA rules, hairy greens, thick frost, lightening fast down-hills, moguls, knee deep rough, more sand and water than water front property, Velcro removal during back swings, exploding coughs during precision chips, un-winnable stroke streams complete with unyielding stroke givers and takers, 179-degree dog legs, and brutal rangers in leather and chains.
If this is the type of outing you've been dreaming about, keep dreaming. I can not make it happen. But picture this:
-A luxurious house with a separate bed for everyone.
-18 to 36 holes of golf per day on pristine courses.
-A gourmet meal every night.
-All the comforts, food and drink of home.
I am looking at an arrival date of (date) and departure date of (date). We will be gathering in (city, state). For a group of eight of us, and assuming we average 27 holes per day, your cost should be around $ XXX for the housing, food, drink, golf and rental cars. (Note: Our cost per man for food and drink for seven days was $ 160 in 2005.) Please reply before (date) by answering:
What is the percentage chance you can come for these dates? What is the percentage chance you could make other dates? What dates would you prefer? Other recommendations: ”
You have now set the stage. For those you do not hear back from, get on the phone and hash it out. Through all of your responses, you will come up with the consensus of length of vacation and dates through give and take.
Over the next four months you will be:
-Getting firm commitments from your group members
-Arriving at a firmer consensus on golf venue
-Receiving food and drink orders to allow you to make the shopping list
-Reserving the vacation house and rental cars
-Getting tee times
I like to periodically whet everyone's appetite and keep the excitation level up. Setting up a website especially for your group is a great way to do this. It is just a little thing I whipped up using MS Publisher. An easier way for you to do this would be to get a free Blog set up for this purpose. I recommend blogger dot com.
Over the years, we have realized two key things about lodging. The first is that it makes a huge difference in camaraderie when the whole group stays under the same roof. The second is the value in everyone having a separate bed (you know how guys are). The only way to achieve this is to pick a location where there are a bunch of rental homes in order for you to pick one that allows this. (Plug for Isle of Palms, SC: you can find what you need there.)
It may not seem to you like time is of the essence, but work schedules, vacation allotments, spousal plans, ticket costs, and your preparation needs demand that you DO get this ball rolling. Once you have sent your introductory email and done your phone calling, several of your planned guests will have trouble pulling the trigger. Work with them as you can, but I have found that you will need your firm group established two months ahead of time (give or take one guy or so.) A fine point for you: Ask for a nominal deposit from each of the troops .
Over time, I know that the cost of our vacation, outside of airfare, will be around $ 900. In one of my follow up emails, I simply ask the players to send around half of that to me. It emphasizes commitment.
In selecting the location of your rental home, consider the driving time to the golf courses you will be playing. We have found that twenty minutes travel time is great, thirty minutes is OK, but forty minutes is too long. The longer drives are certainly bearable, but if you are planning a winter vacation, you will have to have a fairly early tee time in the morning to allow lunch and another 18 in the afternoon. After telling tales later into the evening, beating the sun to the course, heading home and preparing the discomfort, it gets to be a long day.
This takes us to the minus-two-months time frame.
In Part Three of this series, we will get into getting great golf rates, shopping lists, and easy administration.